United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Kenneth Eugene Reinholtz, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), and supplemental security income ("SSI") under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). In this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
I. Procedural Background
Plaintiff protectively filed his application for DIB and SSI on June 23, 2012, alleging an inability to work since June 23, 2012, due to back problems. (Tr. 13, 179). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff's date last insured is December 31, 2016. (Tr. 220). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. An administrative hearing was held on December 23, 2012, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 25-57).
At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-six years of age and possessed a GED. (Tr. 19). Plaintiff had past relevant work ("PRW") experience as a garbage collector, auto mechanic, and diesel mechanic. (Tr. 19, 34-35).
By a written decision dated January 11, 2013, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "chronic low back pain syndrome, a herniated nucleus pulposis at the L5-S1 level status post discectomy, and bursitis of the right hip." (Tr. 15). After reviewing all of the evidence presented, however, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments. (Tr. 16). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). (T. 16). With the help of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ determined Plaintiff could not perform his PRW, but could perform the requirements of representative occupations such as jewelry assembler and billing clerk. (Tr. 19-20). The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability during the relevant time period. (Tr. 20).
Plaintiff requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council on March 14, 2013 (Tr. 7-9), which denied that request on May 18, 2013. (Tr. 1-4). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). Both parties have filed appeals briefs, and the case is ready for decision. (Doc. 11, 12).
II. Applicable Law.
This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. "Our review extends beyond examining the record to find substantial evidence in support of the ALJ's decision; we also consider evidence in the record that fairly detracts from that decision." Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other words, if after reviewing the record it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
It is well established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at lease one year and that prevents him from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines "physical or mental impairment" as "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that his disability, not simply his impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 594 (8th Cir. 1993).
The Commissioner's regulations require the application of a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(f)(2003). Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his or her RFC. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).
The Court has reviewed the Briefs filed by the Parties, the Transcript of the proceedings, including a review of the hearing before the ALJ, the medical records, and relevant administrative records and finds ...